Over the years, the face of entrepreneurship has changed quite significantly.Internet technology, specifically, has given rise to a generation of innovative businesses and young people who are no longer willing to conform to the norm of 9-5; opting instead to initiate their own passion-driven projects. This is precisely why on the 30th of May 2017, APN Ireland decided to run an event aimed at showcasing local enterprisers who are playing an important part in the ever-evolving image of business globally.
One thing that struck me after witnessing the candidates face (the not so intimidating) Lions on stage was that underlying feeling of ‘why couldn’t that have been me’ and I could not help but wonder what keeps holding me back from sharing my idea with the world. I silently hoped that there would be another event in future so that I could finally show off my idea – but that is not what I wish to focus on today.
After the event, my mind was buzzing with insight and I started to scribble various thoughts and Ideas that kept recurring in my mind. Once my mind had finally settled from the euphoria of the event I had some time to reflect and ponder.
In case you missed the event, here is a very brief summary; We invited three local, African-owned tech startups to Google Dublin to participate in a Lion’s Den Startup Pitch Competition. The finalists were using tech to deliver Afro-Caribbean groceries, promote retail pharmaceuticals in Africa, and enable people to design homes in their hometowns through virtual reality. We also had two keynote speakers, namely: Charles Sekwalor Co- Founder of Movemeback.com and Zim Ugochukwu Founder & CEO of Travel Noire, who came and shared their individual entrepreneurial journeys. They each offered a unique perspective into some of the challenges (and indeed benefits) that come with establishing a business; offering some really great insights into what one needs to incorporate into their mindset in order to be a successful entrepreneur.
Below is what resonated with me the most from the event, it might not be the same for you, as we are all at different points in our journeys, I welcome any feedback so please do feel free to let me know what you think.
I narrowed it down to five key points:
A) TAKE RISKS/BE COURAGEOUS
Charles’s journey epitomised the very definition of risk-taking – from quitting his comfortable city consulting role in order to venture out on his own to the rather admirable leap into real estate and purchase of a big money apartment in Central London(during a recession!!)
He came across as an everyday individual, however, it was soon clear that the more risk he took the more his appetite to achieve grew. Whilst he did admit that risk taking is only possible within reason and that eventually, one needs to step back (when money begins to run out!) it’s important to note that Charles and indeed Movemeback would not be what it is today if Charles and his partners hadn’t taken the risk to begin it in the first place.
An important lesson here is that when you are hell-bent on achieving something – it can and will happen for you. This reminds me of the beautiful story told by Paulo Coelho from the Alchemist, and the quote you should always remember
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.
Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.
One African proverb that I hear very often is ‘A patient dog eats the fattest bone’ I know it sounds crude and not to say that humans are dogs – but I thought it would be one worth pointing out. Often when you hear about the time it took for some of the world’s most successful companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon to become profitable, you begin to wonder – is it really possible to be that patient?I guess we all know the answer to that question.
In her keynote, Zim highlighted that she had to start by proving the value of her idea before she could start making any money from it. With the help of social media – she built up so much trust and such an expansive community that when the time came for her to sell a product – she sold out of every single one.
The point is, you will know when the time is right and sometimes you must be so patient so that you get to know and understand your market. That way, when the time comes to charge for your service – people will invest in you(or your business) without question.
Zim also spoke extensively about the importance of delegation, emphasising that you can only function best at what you are good at. Arguably, when you are starting off, you might have to wear different hats – however in order to grow and scale something’s got to give. There is no point being a generalist at everything when you can offer more value by specialising in what allows you to offer the most value – A jack of all trades is a master of none! Establish your niche and let others do the rest – as long as you continue to offer the utmost value to your business.
In many ways, Zim and Charles personified this attribute. For Charles, it was his ability to defy the odds in his pursuit to raise a deposit for his £1M property amidst fears of potential legal action and a crippling economic situation. For Zim, who went from cloning genes as a Biologist to a leading Tech and Travel entrepreneur – it does not get any more unconventional than that. Think back on your own life, when have you been unconventional? Are you surprised?
Ultimately purpose and passion is what it always comes down to. What is it that drives you? For Charles, he was tired of the same old story of poverty and unemployment in a continent full of opportunity.It was his need to rewrite the narrative and drive economic growth and social change in Africa that shaped Movemeback. For Zim, after some uncomfortable experiences in India due to her skin tone and hair type; she decided to challenge the stereotypes of black travel and prove that the world can be accessible to anyone, regardless of their ethnic background.
So, what is your purpose? As you know, APN Ireland’s mission is to connect, empower and foster collaboration among young professionals of African origin living in Ireland. This is what drives all of our initiatives, and like Charles & Zim, we want to rewrite the narrative about Africa and show that together we can go far.
So, do not be distracted by the noise, instead, focus on finding your purpose and only pay attention to those that push you up and not those that pull you down. Find some role models and use their experiences to help inform your own story. Look back and reflect on the five key points we’ve discussed; ‘Risk, Patience, Delegation, Unconventional & Purpose’ as these are great principles to apply in order to be successful at whatever you do. It is not about how smart you are, it is about how good you are at learning today how to be better than you were yesterday.
APN Ireland is the first and only community in Ireland bringing together all young professionals of African origin for one purpose “growth” by connecting and empowering young professionals of African origin in Ireland to collaborate.